A Democrat vying for U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann's job on Tuesday suggested hospice care as a way to curtail Medicare spending, using his deceased mother's experience with breast cancer as an example.
Wrapping up a speech to the Greater Chattanooga Democratic Women's Club, Bill Taylor recounted his mother's various rounds of chemotherapy and radiation before praising her decision to sign up for hospice.
"She was home the whole time, and she died in early August of 2000 with all the family around her and on her own terms," Taylor said. "Now for our discussion tonight, she also saved the Medicare program a boatload of money."
A pause hung in the air as Taylor waited for applause and about 25 Women's Club members simply waited.
"I'm not advocating that the government get involved in that because that decision is too personal for the federal government to tell you what to do," he said. "But it's something that ... society needs to start looking at to save [Medicare] and to make life better for ourselves."
Earlier, Taylor said hospice saved taxpayer money because doctors eased his mother into life's final stages rather than keeping her alive with Medicare-approved procedures and tests.
A health care administrator at Physician Practice Resources, Taylor dove deeply into medical issues during his 30-minute talk, advocating for pharmaceutical cost control and a requirement that members of Congress sign up for Medicare, among other reforms.
Sandy Lusk, president of the Greater Chattanooga Democratic Women's Club, said Taylor's speech pointed out glaring flaws in the nation's health care system.
"I feel like I need a hypertension pill after hearing some of that," she said.
A Democrat hasn't held Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District seat since Marilyn Lloyd left it in January 1995 -- eight-term congressman Zach Wamp and Fleischmann have kept it warm ever since -- but Taylor said he's laying the groundwork for a full-fledged campaign, with speeches on jobs and tax policy planned for the coming weeks.
So far the lone Democrat in the race against Fleischmann, Taylor only had 16 days between his announcement on Dec. 15 and the New Year's Eve deadline for accepting year-end contributions, so he may not release a campaign finance disclosure. Federal law requires the submission of such a disclosure only if a candidate has raised or spent $5,000 or more.
Taylor told the Chattanooga Times Free Press his campaign would "crank up" fundraising soon, declining to say how much he has raised to this point.
Fleischmann's advisers have said the congressman will have $500,000 on hand by the time disclosures become public later this month. Weston Wamp, the 24-year-old son of the longtime congressman, has said a single December fundraiser netted him $250,000 in his quest to win his father's old seat.
Ron Bhalla and Jean Howard-Hill are the other GOP candidates in the 3rd District race. The primary election is Aug. 2.